Saturday, April 10, 2010

Springtime in the Good Old Days

Since it was Easter Sunday, I went to church, as I always TRY to do… but especially on Easter.

Another thing I TRY to do when I go to church is NOT let my mind wander, which is pretty hard for me because: (a) my mind wanders pretty much all the time, and (b) I’m a Lutheran, which means our church service includes lots of chants and so forth, which provide extra opportunities for my mind to wander, no matter how hard I try to stay focused on the content of those chants.

This past Sunday, my mind did wander a bit, but at least it stayed on Easter stuff. For some reason, I found myself thinking about Dogwood trees, and the legend I remember from my childhood that the flower of the dogwood represents the Crucifixion. (If you look at a dogwood flower, you can see a cross, as well as four rusty indentions, which symbolize the nails.)

After church, my mind kept wandering. First, I recalled how as a young kid, in my tree-climbing years, dogwoods were my favorite, because they were easy, being low to the ground, and also have trunks that were twisted just exactly right for climbing upon by a six or seven year old.

Then, my mind drifted over to the other iconic flower of springtime in the South, the azalea bush, which seemed to grow everywhere when I was a kid. Next thing I knew, I was absorbed in full-fledged mind-wandering, daydreaming about Springtime in the Good Old Days.

From azaleas, I somehow jumped to the Sunday afternoons I knew as a kid. On the ride home from church, one of the three kids would always have the foresight to “call” the comics: “I got the funnies!” Somehow, it was as if calling for that section of the Sunday newspaper had the force of law. The caller, would, indeed, always be granted the right to choose from among the two sections of the comics that existed back then.

While we glanced at various sections of the newspaper, Mom would be in the kitchen getting Sunday dinner ready. It wasn’t until I was older that I ever realized other people called the noontime meal “lunch”, and “dinner” was the meal served in the evening, which I called “supper”.

Looking back, I realize that regular Sunday dinner at our house was an extravaganza: usually roast beef or chicken or cubed steak or pork chops, with more sides than you can imagine, including either mashed potatoes or rice with gravy, macaroni, rolls, iced tea, and usually three or four different vegetables.

I was never a big fan of the vegetables.

On one memorable occasion – possibly the most storied Sunday dinner in Shealy family history – Mom and Dad decided to exert their parental authority and insist that I not leave the table until I had consumed a portion of – YUCK – English Peas.

Hours after the rest of the family had left the dinner table, I was still sitting their, stubbornly refusing to budge.

Finally, after it occurred to me that my daylight/outside playtime was slipping away, I ate the dreaded peas: one at a time, swallowed like a pill, with a giant gulp of iced tea to wash it down. It took another half hour or so. I ate them all. But I didn’t taste them.

After daydreaming about Sunday dinners of years gone by, my mind somehow jumped to “catching fireflies”, which we did in the early evenings of the spring.

From there, my thoughts raced willy-nilly from image to image, recalling bits and pieces of springtime memories from circa-1965 – 1967, which would be approximately ages 12 to 14 for me. Here are a few of those glimpses I recall:

-- Counting down the days til summertime! School was bearable because the end was within sight: SUMMERTIME!!! So I sat in school during those springtime countdown days with my mind wandering… not unlike present day.

-- Walking to the drive-in movie. I was too young to drive. But on Wednesday nights, there were free coupons, and they didn’t care if you had a car or not.

-- Atlanta Braves baseball. In the mid-to-late 60’s, I was a big fan. I could recite batting orders and recount scores of games, and I kept up with how many games out of first place the Braves were. I knew the names like they were family: Hank Aaron, Clete Boyer, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou, Rico Carty, Phil Neikro… I knew ‘em all, and listened to every game on my transistor radio.

-- Walking to the corner store for a soda. In the springtime, as it started to get warm, investing 10-cents in a cold drink seemed like a good idea. Back then, the drinks were in bottles, in a cooler with a lift up lid and a bottle opener. Coke came up with the idea to put a contest under the bottle caps. Under each cap was a letter, printed either in red or black. If you collected enough caps to spell out “things go better” in red letters, you won $1,000. I remember digging through a lot of used bottle caps.

-- The Attic Fan! Air conditioning existed back then… but not at our house! However, we had a giant attic fan, which kept the whole house cool during the spring a summer nights. (Well, maybe by August it wasn’t quite getting it done anymore.) The good thing about the Spring was that the gnats and flies weren’t out in full force yet.

-- I think it was also along the same time – the mid-to-late sixties, in the Springtime – that I first discovered “girls”. Actually, I knew girls before, but previously, had viewed them mostly as just nuisances while us guys were trying to build a fort, ride our bikes, or play a game of baseball. Suddenly, however, I seem to have discovered girls in a whole new light. (Unfortunately, I simultaneously discovered that I was apparently the shyest boy in about five states.)

So, I spent part of my Easter afternoon daydreaming about Springtime in the Good Old Days. I hope you had a good Easter, too.

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